ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Top Democrats are pushing back against a wealthy Minnesota man who knowingly took food stamps to prove the program has too many loopholes.
State House Republicans are advancing a bill to tighten up who’s eligible for the food benefits. But it’s causing a lot of anger from supporters who say it’s presenting an unfair picture of who goes hungry in Minnesota.
Half a million low-income Minnesotans get benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program every year. But a millionaire from Waite Park told lawmakers he was able to get food stamps, too.
Rob Undersander says he had little income on paper, but $1 million in property and retirement accounts. But he applied for food stamps, and got them.
“But because Minnesota doesn’t count those savings, I’m allowed to siphon unneeded welfare benefits,” Undersander said.
Food stamps are based on income only. But a new bill would change that to also include assets like property and retirement accounts.
“He fenagled the system,” Gov. Mark Dayton said.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton says there’s not widespread waste in the program. And the millionaire oughta be ashamed.
“One person can game the system. We’re talking about hundreds of millions of people that are on the program and they find the one person who figure out how to game the system,” Dayton said.
Nearly half a million Minnesotans receive food stamp benefits, and about 69 percent of them are families with children. And 33 percent are seniors or disabled.
Some lawmakers were offended that a millionaire would go to such lengths to make a point they say is not accurate.
“You knew this was wrong and you did it anyway. Frankly, I find this pretty despicable,” Rep. John Considine of Mankato said. “I’m actually sorry there’s no way we can prosecute you, to be honest.”
Food stamp use has gone up in recent years. And supporters of means testing say it will make the program more effective.
“Help me put the right guidelines in here to make sense that those who don’t need it don’t get it, and those that are in need do get it,” Rep. Jeff Howe of Rockville said.
The Minnesota millionaire says he received about $300 a month in food stamps over 19 months. The average food stamp recipient gets about $125 a month. That’s about $1.40 per meal.
Undersander says he donated the amount he received in food stamps to his church, to charity and to food shelves.